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Breast Screening "Over-Diagnosis" Must Be Highlighted

An independent review has been asked to investigate the benefits of breast screening, amid concerns that it is doing more harm than good.

Currently in the UK, all women between the ages of 50 and 70 are invited to attend a breast screening clinic every three years. This means that more than two million women are screened each year across the country, and breast cancer charities emphasise the service is instrumental in catching breast cancer in the early stages – something which can greatly improve a patient's prognosis.

However, some women who have been diagnosed with cancer after breast screening have raised concerns, saying they have unnecessarily undergone treatment. They argue that while a tumour was accurately detected, it was in fact benign and would not have caused any further complications; but despite this, medical professionals have performed invasive and unpleasant treatment, including chemotherapy, radiotherapy and sometimes even a mastectomy.

Experts are referring to this issue as the problem of 'overdiagnosis'. The national cancer director Prof Sir Mike Richards said it has become “an area of high controversy”, and the review has served to heighten concerns. Recently published in the Lancet Medical Journal, it found that while screening saved 1,307 lives in the UK every year, it led to 3,971 women having unnecessary treatment. This means that for every life saved, three women had treatment for breast cancer that would never have been fatal.

The review has suggested that women should be offered more information about the potential harm of being tested, thereby ensuring they are able to make an informed choice. Commenting on the findings, Prof Richards said: “My view is that the screening programme should happen, we should invite women to be screened and give women the information to make their own choice.” He added that leaflets on breast screening sent to women would be updated to “give the facts in a clear, unbiased way”. This would represent a marked difference from the current advice which does not highlight the risk of overdiagnosis.

Have you been affected by unnecessary breast cancer treatment?

If you have suffered an overdiagnosis of breast cancer, meaning you have needlessly undergone cancer treatment, you should speak to a solicitor about the medical care you have received. This is because you could be entitled to claim compensation for the pain and suffering you have wrongfully endured during radiotherapy and chemotherapy, and the defect you have been left with after a mastectomy procedure.

To clarify your legal position, you need to speak to a solicitor who specialises in medical negligence. He or she will be able to advise whether or not you have been the victim of negligence, and if so, will help you obtain the compensation you deserve.

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